Stuart and Tina Nokes are a husband-wife duo based in Ashburn, Virginia, who have been owners of Five Star Painting since 2012. They have experience with both indoor and outdoor painting, including paint and stains for fences and bricks.

They joined a recent Washington Post online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.

Q: What colors would make my house look bigger?

A: White and gray are both very popular colors. They will look beautiful mixed together in adjoining rooms. Stay on the lighter side of the grays.

Q: How do you choose paint colors?

A: Here’s how interior designers do it: Go to the paint store and get a fan deck with strips of all the colors. Find colors in that deck that match the colors in your room, such as those of the sofa and pillows. Choose one of those for your walls. If the color is too bright or too dark, go up the color strip to a lighter color that will complement the colors in your room. Get a sample of the color from the paint store, and paint a little bit on your walls. Look at it throughout the day to see how it looks under the light. You may also want to consider putting a sample on other walls, because paint colors can look different on different sides of the room.

Q: Where should you start a painting project?

A: This depends on what you want and whether you’re doing the painting yourself or hiring a professional. Painters can start anywhere, but they prefer to work from the top down. If you’re doing it yourself, we recommend starting with the easiest room first, like a guest bedroom. You can gauge your skill level and judge the results. Lay down plastic, then prepare the room. Start with the ceilings, then cut in the walls, then paint them and finish with trim. Clean and finish the room.

Q: What mistakes do people make when choosing an exterior paint?


A: Not doing the necessary preparation and not waiting for temperate weather. For paint to adhere well, it must be applied to a surface that is clean, dry and not flaking or peeling. Depending on the condition of existing siding and trim, this often means considerable scraping and sanding before you can paint. Begin by washing the surfaces with a hose and a scrub brush with water and detergent, or a pressure washer. If you use a pressure washer, be careful not to drive water deeply into the joints between siding or erode the surface of the wood.

Don’t paint on hot days, in the rain or during windy weather. Ideal temperatures for painting are between 50 and 90 degrees. Hot weather causes the paint to dry too quickly, as does direct sun. When possible, wait for the shade. Temperatures below 50 degrees may prevent the paint from adhering to the surface properly. Dampness or dew can bubble surfaces.

Q: How often should your interiors be painted?

A: It really depends on how you live, the size of your family, the ages of those in the home and when you feel the need for a color change. Interior paint holds up well for seven years. A house that is rented often needs to be repainted, because the moving in and out is tough on walls.

Q: What paint finish would you recommend for kitchen walls?

A: If you cook a lot in your kitchen, you need a sheen: matte, eggshell or satin. If you don’t cook much, you can go with a flat finish. For most people, I recommend a matte finish.

Q: How do I choose colors for kids’ rooms?

A: Get the children involved. They usually have some pretty strong opinions about what they want. I recommend staying on the lighter side of their choice. If you go too bold or too dark, be aware that you will need to prime first before repainting later. Try to coordinate an acceptable color with other decor in their room.

Q: Which sanding materials do you need for painting projects?

A: A pole sander is very useful before painting walls. Foam block sanders are great for contoured spaces, and they’re easy to hold and work with.


Q: How does lighting affect color, and do you have any suggestions for finding colors that suit your space’s lighting?

A: Lighting significantly influences your perception of color. Sampling and testing colors on walls in all kinds of light is an excellent way to know whether you’ll be happy with the result. Look at the color at night and in both natural and artificial light. Don’t rely too much on paint chips, because the color always turns out different when painted on walls. If you don’t want to try anything on your walls, wooden boards also work well.

Q: What is the best way to match existing colors on walls?

A: Find the original paint in the basement. If it’s been too long, the paint won’t be good anymore, but if you find it, you’ll have the brand, sheen, color name and number, and color formula. The next best method is to find an inconsequential spot, carve out a triangle with 1.5-inch sides and gently peel off the underlying wallboard paper with the existing paint color, which you can take to your paint store. The stores often have computer matching that can help, and a skilled paint mixer can get you a close match. You could also try to get close with a fan deck, but know that this method is not nearly as accurate as the other two.

Q: How can I find a good painter? And is it better to use someone who works alone?

A: Here are the main questions you want to ask a painting company:


1. Are you licensed and insured? If so, ask for physical copies. If not, run. If there is damage or injury during the job at your house, you are now liable.

2. Do you have a website with reviews I can read? Check out the reviews to know what kind of quality is provided.

3. What type of paint do you use? It should be good-quality paint. If it’s low-end, you will get a less-than-optimal result.

4. How are your projects managed? We provide a project manager on every job.

5. Do you offer a warranty? We offer a two-year warranty and a final walk-through to check for touch-ups.